Tag Archives: Jello Biafra

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine

Saturday night I met some friends down at a bar called Three Links, in Dallas, to see Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

2014-11-09 00.47.44Like a lot of skaters my age, I’m a long time fan of Jello, from his work with the Dead Kennedys to his spoken word material. About 7 years ago (has it been that long? wow!) I saw Jello do his spoken word, so there was no way I was gonna miss his show with his new band.

First, a few words about the first of the opening bands, The Interrupters, a very good punk/ska band from LA. I’ll be honest, I’m not a ska fan at all. I usually think it’s dumb and hate it. But I really liked this band. They had a really good sound. As soon as I heard their first song I was happy and full of hope for the future. Seriously.  You can learn more about them on the link above.

OK, on to Jello.

Jello is old, and fat, and I don’t know  where he gets enough energy to do what he does, but he does, and it is pretty incredible. He was all over the stage. Classic Jello. The new material is extremely good. When you hear it, it is very clear that Jello wrote all the Dead Kennedy’s stuff. It’s the same, with a little different sound from a more talented band. Yeah – more talented. I love the Dead Kennedys music, so that’s not a put-down. But this new band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine, is just a much more experienced band what still manages to deliver the energy of a bunch of young kids.

Here’s a link to the new album….JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE –  White People And The Damage Done. As you will see from the song titles, Jello’s songwriting is still pretty hard-hitting.

Three Links is a small-ish bar/club. Not tiny, but not huge. I would say it qualifies as “intimate”. The sound was good for all the bands. It was open to the street, so there was some nice fresh air to cool the crowd. The band came out, and after the first song Jello demanded (in a classic Biafra rant about “why are there fucking TVs on at every bar”) that all the “fucking TVs” be turned off. The bartenders complied, and the show went on!

2014-11-09 00.14.47When the second song began, the slamming up by the stage started, and the chaos grew, and it could have been 1985. There’s nothing like the surge of a slamming crowd. (Sorry, I can’t use the term “mosh”. It sounds stupid and comes from violent metalhead morons). It was good-natured yet still somewhat threatening mayhem, which Jello seemed to love, flinging water bottle out into the crowd. This continued through the whole show.

Before a lot of the songs Jello stopped to talk politics for a few seconds, usually as an appropriate intro to a song.

Jello threw a few Dead Kennedys songs into the mix. Kill The Poor, California Über Alles, Nazi Punks Fuck Off, and Holiday in Cambodia. They are, after all, his songs. They sound good, and of course the crowd went even more crazy. The new songs are great, but those old songs are formative for a lot of people – no getting around it.

As a 50-year old delinquent, it was just so great to see this at an all ages show. Young kids, old farts, skaters, punkers, nerds…all mixing it up in a club small enough to feel like things were real.

OK, time to wrap this up.

They played for very close to two hours. A very very very short break before a 4 song encore. Two hours! That is kind of rare these days, I think.

All in all, a fun time. So great!





Dudes who got it right

Age gives an the advantage of perspective on earlier years. Is it an advantage? Maybe. I guess. I’m sure that in future decades, should I be lucky enough to have a few more, I will think that as of today I didn’t know a damned thing. However, I think these dudes are a bit of an exception.

Henry with a few of his books.

The guys in these pictures — they got it right.

Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Jello Biafra. (You can click on these images to go to their sources).

In my mind these guys are the Trinity of Punk Rock.  When I want to listen to some punk, it’s going to usually involve Black Flag, Fugazi (or Minor Threat), and the Dead Kennedys.

But when I say they got it right I’m not talking about the music. I’m talking about everything else.

These are pretty much the three smart dudes from punk. They are the ones who have grown into intelligent, progressive, well-spoken adult human beings.

I am constantly amazed by how many people I know who “love” punk rock, and are skateboarders, grow up to adopt a repressive, conservative political and social ideology. I think part of this conundrum stems from the fact that punk (at least the kind from the 1980s) tends to be very aggressive music, and thus it attracts not only smart people but some fairly not-quite-as -smart people too. I’m sure a lot of young people are just trying to “find themselves” or enjoy being part of an outsider group, so they get into it. I’m sure this happened with my generation. My friend Bosco says young people are often just “trying on different uniforms.” Then they grow up and become their parents. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes not so much. Honestly, I have never “worn the uniform” of anything but a skateboarder. But as I’ve gotten older, and these guys have gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate them more and more.


I just find it fascinating because these three guys, while they have grown up and evolved and become more sophisticated in their thinking and more articulate in their communication, to me, seem like they kind of got it right in the first place.

Somehow, from a young age these guys had a clarity of thought that a lot of people just don’t have. Some people never get it. I think Henry probably had a rougher time with his youth, but he made it, and if you listen to his spoken word, he is right on target on almost everything.

I am reminded of a quote from Bike Snob NYC, regarding the music of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys. Here’s the quote. Click through and read the whole post though. He’s a great writer.

As I got older, however, I “matured,” and my outlook on life became more pragmatic.  I no longer grouped things into “good” and “evil” categories based on where they fell on the Jello Biafra Outrage Scale.  (The more shrilly Jello Biafra sings about something the more evil it was.)  I no longer automatically rejected anything “mainstream,” and I stopped assuming that anything that was part of the mainstream was somehow automatically tainted.  Most of all, I laughed at my own naïveté, I dropped the attitude, and I got down to the non-ideological business of becoming an adult.Jello. Photo from http://noisecreep.com/jello-biafra-band-nostalgic-punk/

But then, years later, something amazing happened, and I realized that all those albums I used to listen to were right.  Well, maybe they weren’t right about a lot of the specifics, but it turns out that the general message–that mainstream culture is vacuous and bankrupt–is pretty much entirely correct.

In the last 7 years I’ve had the chance to see Henry and Jello both do spoken word performance. Both these guys are downright masterful in this craft. Entertaining, engaging, thought-provoking, and just provoking. Really good. Ian doesn’t do spoken word, but I keep up with him and if he is ever in this area I will surely to see him play. I saw him with Fugazi back in the 1990s.

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say today. Go have some fun.